Kings of Leon received not one but two honors today at a civil, civic ceremony in downtown Nashville. Clad in leather, denim and plaid, the Followills — all four of whom were on hand — looked a little out of place sitting in a row, on a stage, taking in balmy afternoon rays as golden-voiced GAC MC Bill Cody inducted the band into the Music City Walk of Fame and Mayor Karl Dean crowned them with the Music City Music Council’s second annual Music City Ambassador Award. Ain’t that a mouthful. Anyway, the irony wasn’t lost on the Followills, who were comically blushing like high school delinquents trying to hold in laughter while waiting to be called into the principal’s office.
It was actually a heartwarming scene. Friends, family, fans and photographers looked on and listened as speakers told the Followills’ only-in-Nashville rise from being discovered at The Bluebird Cafe to nabbing gilded gramophones to put on the mantles of their Music City mansions.
“Nathan, Caleb, Jared and Matthew, you are a perfect example of what Nashville is all about,” Mayor Dean said, addressing the band during the ceremony. “You came to Nashville to make a go at it as songwriters and in just a few short years, you have become one of the most formidable groups in rock music. And most importantly to me, you have chosen Nashville as your home.”
At the end of the day, Nashville is damn proud of its rock ’n’ roll royalty. The Kings’ received the 61st star on the Music City Walk of Fame — previous inductees include Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Les Paul, Reba and Keith Urban. In between speeches, Country Music Hall of Fame house guitarist David Anderson plucked lounge-y versions of “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire.”
Seeing as how last year’s Music City Ambassador honor went to Jack White, this is a pretty rock-centric award, amirite? It kinda makes you think, "Maybe one day Nashvillians will exhaust themselves telling outsiders that Music City is “not just rock.” I kid, I kid.
Rolling Stone contributor Austin Scaggs — who named Nashville the nation’s “Best Music Scene” last year, and who now calls the city home — presented the Followills with their Walk of Fame plaque. Scaggs regaled attendees with stories of kickin’ it drunkenly with the Followills in their early days, seeing the band’s first New York City gig and — like Jon Landau at an early ’70s Springsteen show — “getting a sneak peak at the future of rock ’n’ roll.”
“You don’t really have to ask the Kings how much Nashville means to them,” Scaggs said. “This is where they write. This is where they rehearse. And this is where they record. This is where they are inspired. … It was here, or rather in their garage out in Mt. Juliet, that the Kings played together for the first time. … Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish with a garage, some guitars and amps, a set of drums and a bag of weed?" That last little hydroponic applause line got a more-than-a-little-nervous chuckle out of the suits from the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau. Scaggs also said the word "fucking," which elicited a jaw-drop from Jared.
Speaking on behalf of his brothers and cousin, Kings drummer Nathan Followill said the following kind words in accepting the honors:
We all love Nashville, and I think a lot of you know our story and the way we were raised. Matt lived in Mississippi for most of his life, but me, Caleb and Jared all kind of bounced around America for our whole lives and I can truly say that we do call Nashville home and this the longest we ever lived in one city at one time, and I don’t think we could’ve picked a better city to break in on the music scene and just break in as people and as family.
Nashville’s a wonderful city to live in and a wonderful place to raise kids. We’re all starting that phase of our lives now and we’re just looking forward to taking our kids to many great shows at Bridgestone and The Ryman and maybe bringing them to a star induction here, minus the F-word and the bag of weed comment.
We do love Nashville and thank you all so much for coming out and supporting us today and for buying our records and coming to our concerts and we look forward to making much more music and enjoying the rest of this wonderful ride with you guys. So thank you very much!
Truly, they've come a long way since singing gospel tunes on public access: